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The Federal Communications Commission released its initial Report on a Rural Broadband Strategy last week, inviting further public comment to assist the FCC’s development of a “national broadband plan” by February, 2010 under instruction from Congress.  Better data collection and mapping of the availability of broadband services is only one of several preliminary processes the Commission suggests to get things moving.  Meanwhile, the $7.2 billion broadband funding authorized in this year’s federal economic stimulus bill has been allocated between the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) and the NTIA, and may be open for the commencement of spending prior to any national plan.  In informal communications, RUS officials have recently indicated that neither the RUS nor the federal stimulus bill makes any distinction between “broadband deployment” and “infrastructure”.  Thus RUS stimulus funds could be available for the acquisition of rural cable TV providers which have not yet upgraded their networks to broadband, provided the acquirer would complete the broadband upgrades within the two-year target of the stimulus bill.

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